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Photograph: Hackney Flea Market

Things to do in London this weekend

Can’t decide what to do with your two days off? This is what you should make time for

Rosie Hewitson
Written by
Rosie Hewitson
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There are plenty of reasons why January is considered by many to be the worst month of the year. It’s freezing outside, the streets are lined with sad brown firs and the novelty of your Christmas pressies has worn off. After weeks of festive indulgence you’ve decided to resign yourself to salads and the gym all month, alongside going back to your silly little ‘job’ to replenish a bank balance decimated by present purchases and prosecco. But before this starts to sound like one big anti-January polemic, a caveat: there’s plenty of cracking stuff to help you bust the January blues this weekend. 

Feel like soaking up some culture? Head to a screening at the opening weekend of the London Short Film Festival, enjoy a jaw-dropping display of juggling as part of the London International Mime Festival, or catch London-born musician Hak Baker opening the Roundhouse’s In the Round gig series. 

There are also chances to catch some cultural big-hitters from last year in their final few days, including James Graham’s latest political drama ‘Best of Enemies’ and sculptor Angela Bulloch’s ‘Rainbow Unicorn Rhombus’.

This weekend is also the last ever time you can enjoy a scenic skate around the Natural History Museum’s winter ice rink, which departs forever to make way for a new urban garden. 

Whatever you’re feeling this weekend, we’ve got you covered. Just don’t forget that weekend Tube strikes are likely to be going ahead for the foreseeable future, so it’s wise to check travel updates before heading out!

NOTE: Plans are changing rapidly at the moment. The information on this page was correct at time of publication, but please check with venues directly before you head out.

RECOMMENDED: Plan a great start to 2022 with our January roundup

What’s on this weekend?

  • Theatre
  • Experimental
  • Sloane Square

Alistair McDowall hit upon a rich, dark seam of magical realism (or surrealism) with his last two plays, the audacious, Lovecraftian ‘Pomona’ and the brain-melting sci-fi ‘X’. The follow-up to ‘The Glow’ – which sees him reunite with ‘X’ director Vicky Featherstone – sounds like it will continue down that path: that is to say, it’ll be completely unpredictable. ‘The Glow’ is set in 1863, and follows a young woman with no memory who is plucked from an asylum to serve as the assistant to a spiritualist medium, a course of action which unlocks both her past and new powers. Fisayo Akinade, Rakie Ayola, Tadhg Murphy and Ria Zmitrowicz star.

  • Things to do
  • Film events
  • London

The 19th edition of the BAFTA-affiliated London Short Film Festival comes to an end on Sunday, but not before a load more screenings across several cracking London cinemas. Our picks from the final few days include the ‘UK Blak Symposium’, an afternoon symposium of documentary films and panels featuring music, visuals and discussion around underground Black British music of the 80s and 90s at Rich Mix, and the ‘WTF: Outside the Box’ programme at the Rio, a range of out-there shorts showcasing the weird and wonderful imaginations of filmmakers and animators. Check out the full programme here.

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Chalk Farm

Camden’s iconic circular arts venue The Roundhouse is once again hosting a varied selection of excellent music, dance and film across the sixth edition of its ‘In the Round’ festival this January, with a couple of fab-sounding picks on this weekend. After performing around the world, wowing audiences at Harry and Meghan’s wedding and being signed by Sony Music, The Kingdom Choir will be putting in an appearance on the circular stage on Saturday. Or if you’re more into dance music than gospel, you can catch Yung Singh in a Q&A alongside a screening of the documentary ‘The Birth of Punjabi Garage’, which charts the involvement of the South Asian diaspora in the Garage scene, and the whirlwind success of the hyped DJ and producer since his viral Boilerroom set last year. 

 

  • Clubs
  • Brixton

Body Movements Festival co-founder and trUst label head Saoirse is the latest hyped selector to take up residency at Brixton dance music venue Phonox this January. She’ll be playing until 4am every Friday throughout the month, with the odd special guest on the decks alongside her. Expect expertly curated mixes featuring a wide range of genres, including dub, house, jazz, electro, garage, techno, ambient, breaks and the odd cheeky surprise.

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  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • South Bank

The National Theatre’s first big musical of the pandemic era, ‘Hex’ is an all-singing adaptation of the Sleeping Beauty myth written by NT artistic director Rufus Norris (on lyrics) and his wife Tanya Ronder (book) alongside Jim Fortune (music), with Norris directing. Norris emphatically knows his way around a musical, and the last show he and Ronder did for the NT – 2013’s ‘Table’ – was excellent, albeit a wildly different prospect. There’s also a terrific cast, headed by Rosalie Craig, Tamsin Carroll, Kat Ronney and Michael Elcock. It closes on Saturday, so book while you still can!

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  • Things to do
  • Talks and lectures
  • Spitalfields

Explore the history of East London via vividly realised fiction dating between 1820 and 1920 on this fascinating one-day course at Liverpool Street archive The Bishopsgate Institute. Through lectures and small group discussions led by Sarah Wise, a visiting professor at the University of California’s London Study Center, you’ll discuss how imaginative fiction and real history have entwined to create local legends and become familiar with the key authors and works associated with the East End. 

  • Film
  • Drama

It’s summer 1969. Man has just walked on the moon and the British Army has just marched on to the streets of north Belfast. Star Trek-mad nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill), who uses goals painted to the walls to emulate his footballing hero Danny Blanchflower, soon finds armed Tommies patrolling his old penalty box. Reading his beloved comics outside his terraced house is suddenly fraught with hazard, not least from the broken glass left by sectarian rioting. Possibly the most uplifting film ever made about a time of unending violence, Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Belfast’ comes with a bruised heart and an unquenchable spirit of optimism. Like its young hero, it keeps its eyes on the stars even as the hell of the Troubles breaks out in its midst.

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  • Music
  • Music festivals
  • South Bank

The Southbank Centre’s experimental gig series The Purcell Sessions returns for 2022, a range of acclaimed artists the opportunity to perform boundary-pushing, multi-disciplinary and collaborative work within the intimate setting of the Purcell Room in Queen Elizabeth Hall. London-born electronic producer Iglooghost will be the next artist to take to the stage, performing his latest ethereal album this Saturday alongside an installation made by the enigmatic musician himself. 

  • Music
  • Music festivals
  • King’s Cross

Amorphous Sounds, the record label that champions female and non-binary artists, has curated three spectacular events that explore intersectionality, gender politics, vocal traditions and intimacy through music. The series of live concerts include performances from the label’s incredible artists, including Laura Groves, Fran Lobo, Blood Moon Project, Auclair, Miryam Solomon, Evadney, Deep Throat Choir, and Nouria Bah. 



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  • Things to do
  • Film events
  • Angel

Everyman’s intimate Islington venue Screen on the Green is a cracking little cinema, programming plenty of interesting film programmes and special events. Now, to mark the release of Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Nightmare Alley’, the diminutive Upper Street kino is hosting its first ever immersive cinema experience. For three nights only during the film’s opening weekend, ticket holders will be able to step right into the sinister underbelly of the 1940s American carnival which forms the setting for del Toro’s noir-inspired psychological thriller. We’re talking circus performances, a live band and themed cocktails and bites to enjoy while watching the film, starring Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett. 1940s attire is encouraged!

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • Chinatown

Chinese New Year might not arrive until next week, but if you’re keen to start celebrating early (and thus cram in as many delicious Chinese feasts as possible) this walking tour of central London’s Chinatown is a good way to kick things off. China Exchange will be leading the two and half hour guided tour, where you’ll step back in time as you ramble around nine streets and four gates, celebrate this unique part of London and learn more about its interesting heritage. And afterwards, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with a delicious traditional Chinese lunch served family-style. We promised there’d be plenty of feasting!

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  • Theatre
  • Experimental
  • London

The jugglers, circus people and clowns are on their way to London. Back to being a live event this year, the London International Mime Festival features a wide variety of shows, from dance to puppetry. See classic stories reimagined and also exclusive international films.

Check out the Gandini Juggling performance, an original show featuring contemporary juggling and music coming to Sadler's Wells Theatre, January 12 to 15. Also from January 26 through 29 at The Peacock is one of Britian's most popular circus companies Barely Methodical Troupe, who complete powerful acrobatics in their show 'Kin'. Another highlight is 'What Do You See?' which celebrates identity through a mixture of song, movement and costume at Shoreditch Town Hall, January 19 to 23.

The festival is also hosting workshops so you can work on your own clown skills. Times and venues vary, so see the London International Mime Festival website for a complete schedule.

  • Restaurants
  • Eating

London’s vegan scene has gone from strength to strength over the last few years, with plant-based offerings expanding from processed meat-free junk food and ultra-healthy grain salad bowls to innovative dishes from around the world that deserve to be celebrated. Now, vegans have more eating options than ever in the capital, and even the most veg-phobic carnivores can eschew meat, dairy, eggs and honey knowing that the city will provide amazing alternatives. Don’t know where to start? Check out our bucket list of the best vegan dishes from London restaurants, including a luscious dessert, a pick-and-mix Caribbean feast, a mouth-widening, veg-packed sandwich and a cracking plant-based version of a Chinese classic. Eating your greens never tasted so good.

RECOMMENDED: Veg out at the city’s best vegan restaurants.

WTTDLondon

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